Dark blue: Schengen Area (EU)
Light blue: Countries de facto participating
Orange: EU member states outside Schengen
The Schengen countries signed a treaty almost 20 years ago to ease the visitors entrance and exit flux between members. This measure was a cost reduction solution as well as an increasing security policy.
The good news for you is that if you intend to enter the Schengen Area you only need to apply to one visa instead of applying for the visa of each of the countries you plan to visit. And that also depends on your nationality. You may not even need it!
These countries form an area without internal border controls. In other words, once you’ve entered one of these countries, you can travel to another one as if there was no border. This is possible thanks to the Schengen Agreement, signed in Luxembourg in 1985.
Your passport won’t be checked whether you are a road, rail or air passenger. But every country still has the right to implement security controls if necessary.
Here is a complete and updated list:
UE members Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania don’t belong to the Schengen Area.
Moreover, other countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus are obliged to eventually join the Schengen Area at some point in the future.
And if you travel to Andorra, border controls remain whether you enter from Spain or France.
A final note. Certain flights between Schengen nations are considered as non-Schengen flights.
For example, travellers flying on Air France between Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport and Madrid-Barajas Airport are required to go through Schengen exit checks upon departure in Paris and Schengen entry checks upon arrival in Madrid, because the route operates from Bogotá (Colombia) and the Spanish authorities would have no way of differentiating between arriving passengers who boarded in Bogotá and those who joined in Paris.
What’s this limit about? You can stay for 90 days within a period of 180 days (6 months). But be careful though because despite these days are not necessarily consecutive, they are cumulative.
What does this mean? Well, after a total of 90 days in the Schengen Area, you’ll have to leave the Schengen country you are in. Once you’ve spent 6 months out of this area, you are eligible to enter it again.
Both the entrance and the exit can be done from different Schengen nations. In order to control your entrance and exit, you’ll get a stamp on your passport regardless of whether you need a visa to enter the Schengen Area or not.
As you can imagine, this 90-day limit or visa cannot be extended. And staying longer than 90 days within this region is almost impossible… or maybe not?